All posts by Madeline Snipes

What to Read this Month: April 2019

April is Arab American Heritage Month and National Poetry Month, so this month’s books are all Arab-American fiction, bilingual poetry, or poetry influenced by the Middle East. For more exciting reads, check out our Overdrive, New and Noteworthy, and Current Literature collections.


Dinarzad’s Children: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Fiction edited by Pauline Kaldas and Khaled Mattawa. The first edition of Dinarzad’s Children was a groundbreaking and popular anthology that brought to light the growing body of short fiction being written by Arab Americans. This expanded edition includes sixteen new stories – thirty in all – and new voices and is now organized into sections that invite readers to enter the stories from a variety of directions. Here are stories that reveal the initial adjustments of immigrants, the challenges of forming relationships, the political nuances of being Arab American, the vision directed towards homeland, and the ongoing search for balance and identity.

The contributors are D. H. Melhem, Mohja Khaf, Rabih Alameddine, Rawi Hage, Laila Halaby, Patricia Sarrafian Ward, Alia Yunis, Diana Abu Jaber, Susan Muaddi Darraj, Samia Serageldin, Alia Yunis, Joseph Geha, May Monsoor Munn, Frances Khirallah Nobel, Nabeel Abraham, Yussef El Guindi, Hedy Habra, Randa Jarrar, Zahie El Kouri, Amal Masri, Sahar Mustafah, Evelyn Shakir, David Williams, Pauline Kaldas, and Khaled Mattawa.


The Situe Stories by Frances Khirallah Noble. The situe, or Arabic grandmother, moves in and out of this collection of stories as they seek to capture the integration of Christian Arab women into American culture. The tales contain elements of magic and stoicism, presenting characters rich in independence and creativity.

Frances Khirallah Noble also wrote The New Belly Dancer of the Galaxy: A Novel about a middle-aged Syrian American optician who experiences a series of misadventures involving myth, magical realism, and the realities of Arab American life in a post-9/11 world.


Talking Through the Door: An Anthology of Contemporary Middle Eastern American Writing edited by Susan Atefat-Peckham with a foreword by Lisa Suhair Majaj. The writers included here are descendants of multiple cultural heritages and reflect the perspectives of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds: Egyptian, Iranian, Iraqi, Jordanian, Lebanese, Libyan, Palestinian, Syrian. They are from diverse socioeconomic classes and spiritual sensibilities: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and atheist, among others. Yet they coexist in this volume as simply American voices.

Atefat-Peckham gathered poetry and prose from sixteen accomplished writers whose works concern a variety of themes: from the familial cross-cultural misunderstandings and conflicts in the works of Iranian American writers Nahid Rachlin and Roger Sedarat to the mysticism of Khaled Mattawa’s poems; from the superstitions that govern characters in Diana Abu-Jaber’s prose to the devastating homesickness in Pauline Kaldas’ characters. Filled with emotion and keen observations, this collection showcases these writers’ vital contributions to contemporary American literature.


The World is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East edited by Diane Glancy and Linda Rodriguez. This anthology explores how the Middle East has captured the imaginations of a significant group of Native American poets, most of whom have traveled to the Middle East (broadly defined to include the Arab world, Israel, Turkey, Afghanistan). What qualities of the region drew them there? What did they see? How did their cultural perspectives as Native Americans inform their reactions and insights? Three thematic sections – Place, People, Spirit – feature poems and notes inspired by the poets’ experiences of Middle Eastern cultures.

Contributors include Jim Barnes, Kimberly Blaeser, Trevino L. Brings Plenty, Natalie Diaz, Diane Glancy, Joy Harjo, Allison Hedge Coke, Travis Hedge Coke, Linda Hogan, LeAnne Howe, Bojan Louis, Craig Santos Perez, Linda Rodriguez, Kim Shuck, and James Thomas Stevens.


Armenian-American Poets: A Bilingual Anthology compiled and translated by Garig Basmadjian. A beautiful anthology of poetry written in English by Armenian-American poets, along with their translations into Armenian by author Garig Basmadjian.

This book was published by the Armenian General Benevolent Union, which was founded in 1906 and is dedicated to upholding Armenian heritage worldwide.


Beautiful Words: Kasuundze’ Kenaege’ by John Elvis Smelcer. A literary landmark, this bilingual collection of poems represents the only literature of the Ahtna culture in existence. Ahtna is one of twenty indigenous languages of Alaska and had no written form until the last thirty years. Here John Smelcer renders these poems in his native tongue with English translations.

To learn more about the Ahtna culture, visit the Ahtna Heritage Foundation’s website.


Arabic Poems: A Bilingual Edition edited by Marlé Hammond. Arabic poetry is as vast as it is deep, encompassing all manner of poetic expression from Morocco to Iraq and spanning more than fifteen centuries. In its early stages it formed part of an oral tradition, and there were systematic and collective efforts to transmit it to later generations. Poetry not only entertained and delighted, it also served to memorialize individuals, communities, and events. Even today, it has pride of place in the public domain, engaging the elites and the masses in equal measure, albeit in different registers. This anthology attempts to capture the breadth and depth of the Arabic poetic legacy through its inclusion of pieces composed from pre-Islamic times through to the twenty-first century.

Check out our catalog for other translated collections of Arabic poetry.

 


What to Read this Month: March 2019

This month’s selections are books by and about some amazing women in honor of Women’s History Month. For more exciting reads, check out our Overdrive, New and Noteworthy, and Current Literature collections.

Bonus recommendation: Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler, also available as an audiobook on Overdrive.


The Wind In My Hair: My Fight for Freedom in Modern Iran by Masih Alinejad with Kambiz Foroohar.

An extraordinary memoir from an Iranian journalist in exile about leaving her country, challenging tradition, and sparking an online movement against compulsory hijab.

A photo on Masih’s Facebook page: a woman standing proudly, face bare, hair blowing in the wind. Her crime: removing her veil, or hijab, which is compulsory for women in Iran. This is the self-portrait that sparked ‘My Stealthy Freedom,’ a social media campaign that went viral.

But Masih is so much more than the arresting face that sparked a campaign inspiring women to find their voices. She’s also a world-class journalist whose personal story, told in her unforgettably bold and spirited voice, is emotional and inspiring. She grew up in a traditional village where her mother, a tailor and respected figure in the community, was the exception to the rule in a culture where women reside in their husbands’ shadows. As a teenager, Masih was arrested for political activism and was surprised to discover she was pregnant while in police custody. When she was released, she married quickly and followed her young husband to Tehran where she was later served divorce papers to the shame and embarrassment of her religiously conservative family. Masih spent nine years struggling to regain custody of her beloved only son and was forced into exile, leaving her homeland and her heritage. Following Donald Trump’s notorious immigration ban, Masih found herself separated from her child, who lives abroad, once again.

A testament to a spirit that remains unbroken, and an enlightening, intimate invitation into a world we don’t know nearly enough about, The Wind In My Hair is the extraordinary memoir of a woman who overcame enormous adversity to fight for what she believes in, and to encourage others to do the same.

You can watch Masih Alinejad explain My Stealthy Freedom at the 2016 Women in the World Summit in New York City. To follow My Stealthy Freedom in action, see their Facebook and Twitter.


Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America by Catherine Kerrison.

The remarkable untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s three daughters – two white and free, one black and enslaved – and the divergent paths they forged in a newly independent America.

Thomas Jefferson had three daughters: Martha and Maria by his wife, Martha Wayles Jefferson, and Harriet by his slave Sally Hemings. In Jefferson’s Daughters, Catherine Kerrison, a scholar of early American and women’s history, recounts the remarkable journey of these three women – and how their struggle to define themselves reflects both the possibilities and the limitations that resulted from the American Revolution.

Although the three women shared a father, the similarities end there. Martha and Maria received a fine convent school education while they lived with their father during his diplomatic posting in Paris – a hothouse of intellectual ferment whose celebrated salonnières are vividly brought to life in Kerrison’s narrative. Once they returned home, however, the sisters found their options limited by the laws and customs of early America.

Harriet Hemings followed a different path. She escaped slavery – apparently with the assistance of Jefferson himself. Leaving Monticello behind, she boarded a coach and set off for a decidedly uncertain future.

For this groundbreaking triple biography, Kerrison has uncovered never-before-published documents written by the Jefferson sisters when they were in their teens, as well as letters written by members of the Jefferson and Hemings families. She has interviewed Hemings family descendants (and, with their cooperation, initiated DNA testing) and searched for descendants of Harriet Hemings.

The eventful lives of Thomas Jefferson’s daughters provide a unique vantage point from which to examine the complicated patrimony of the American Revolution itself. The richly interwoven story of these three strong women and their fight to shape their own destinies sheds new light on the ongoing movement toward human rights in America – and on the personal and political legacy of one of our most controversial Founding Fathers.

Catherine Kerrison discussed Jefferson’s Daughters in a Conversations at the Washington Library podcast. also wrote Claiming the Pen: Women and Intellectual Life in the Early American South.


Song In a Weary Throat: Memoir of an American Pilgrimage by Pauli Murray, with a new introduction by Patricia Bell-Scott.

First published posthumously in 1987, Pauli Murray’s Song in a Weary Throat was critically lauded, winning the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and the Lillian Smith Book Award among other distinctions. Yet Murray’s name and extraordinary influence receded from view in the intervening years; now they are once again entering the public discourse. At last, with the republication of this “beautifully crafted” memoir, Song in a Weary Throat takes its rightful place among the great civil rights autobiographies of the twentieth century.

In a voice that is energetic, wry, and direct, Murray tells of a childhood dramatically altered by the sudden loss of her spirited, hard-working parents. Orphaned at age four, she was sent from Baltimore to segregated Durham, North Carolina, to live with her unflappable Aunt Pauline, who, while strict, was liberal-minded in accepting the tomboy Pauli as “my little boy-girl.” In fact, throughout her life, Murray would struggle with feelings of sexual “in-betweenness” – she tried unsuccessfully to get her doctors to give her testosterone – that today we would recognize as a transgendered identity.

We then follow Murray north at the age of seventeen to New York City’s Hunter College, to her embrace of Gandhi’s Satyagraha – nonviolent resistance – and south again, where she experienced Jim Crow firsthand. An early Freedom Rider, she was arrested in 1940, fifteen years before Rosa Parks’ disobedience, for sitting in the whites-only section of a Virginia bus. Murray’s activism led to relationships with Thurgood Marshall and Eleanor Roosevelt – who respectfully referred to Murray as a “firebrand” – and propelled her to a Howard University law degree and a lifelong fight against “Jane Crow” sexism. We also read Betty Friedan’s enthusiastic response to Murray’s call for an NAACP for Women – the origins of NOW. Murray sets these thrilling high-water marks against the backdrop of uncertain finances, chronic fatigue, and tragic losses both private and public, as Patricia Bell-Scott’s engaging introduction brings to life.

Now, more than thirty years after her death in 1985, Murray – poet, memoirist, lawyer, activist, and Episcopal priest – gains long-deserved recognition through a rediscovered memoir that serves as a “powerful witness” (Brittney Cooper) to a pivotal era in the American twentieth century.

Pauli Murray is featured in multiple murals in Durham. To learn more about Pauli Murray and community projects commemorating her, check out the Pauli Murray Project.


Gertrude Weil: Jewish Progressive in the New South by Leonard Rogoff.

It is so obvious that to treat people equally is the right thing to do,” wrote Gertrude Weil (1879-1971). In the first-ever biography of Weil, Leonard Rogoff tells the story of a modest southern Jewish woman who, while famously private, fought publicly and passionately for the progressive causes of her age. Born to a prominent family in Goldsboro, North Carolina, Weil never married and there remained ensconced – in many ways a proper southern lady – for nearly a century. From her hometown, she fought for women’s suffrage, founded her state’s League of Women Voters, pushed for labor reform and social welfare, and advocated for world peace.

Weil made national headlines during an election in 1922 when, casting her vote, she spotted and ripped up a stack of illegally marked ballots. She campaigned against lynching, convened a biracial council in her home, and in her eighties desegregated a swimming pool by diving in headfirst. Rogoff also highlights Weil’s place in the broader Jewish American experience. Whether attempting to promote the causes of southern Jewry, save her European family members from the Holocaust, or support the creation of a Jewish state, Weil fought for systemic change, all the while insisting that she had not done much beyond the ordinary duty of any citizen.

A decade before Rogoff’s book, Anne Firor Scott wrote an article about Gertrude Weil. She relates a conversation about international problems where Gertrude exclaimed, “I grow more radical every year. Who knows? I may live long enough to become a communist!”

Gertrude Weil is featured in the Women of Valor exhibit in the Jewish Women’s Archive. She also has a highway marker in Goldsboro.


Always Another Country: A Memoir of Exile and Home by Sisonke Msimang.

Born in exile, in Zambia, to a guerrilla father and a working mother, Sisonke Msimang is constantly on the move. Her parents, talented and highly educated, travel from Zambia to Kenya and Canada and beyond with their young family. Always the outsider, and against a backdrop of racism and xenophobia, Sisonke develops her keenly perceptive view of the world. In this sparkling account of a young girl’s path to womanhood, Sisonke interweaves her personal story with her political awakening in America and Africa, her euphoria at returning to the new South Africa, and her disillusionment with the new elites. Confidential and reflective, Always Another Country is a search for belonging and identity: a warm and intimate story that will move many readers.

Sisonke Msimang gave a TEDTalk in 2017 titled If a Story Moves You, Act on It. She recently published The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela, which she discusses here.

 


What to Read this Month: February 2019

February is Black History Month, so before I get to the books, here are some exhibits, resources, and events:

Duke People’s State of the University is a campus activist group that has successfully pressured Duke to “ban the box” – not require job applicants to disclose criminal history – and rename the Carr building. The Chronicle named PSOTU one of its Chron15 Pioneers.

Duke is home to the personal and professional papers of John Hope Franklin, historian, activist, and public scholar. The John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, housed at the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library collects and preserves primary sources. The John Hope Franklin Center of International and Interdisciplinary Studies produces a weekly webcast called Left of Black, hosted by Duke Professor Mark Anthony Neal. The Franklin Humanities Institute hosts the lab From Slavery to Freedom: Representations of Race and Freedom in the African Diaspora.

February 13 marked the 50th anniversary of the Allen Building Takeover at Duke. The Takeover is commemorated by an online exhibit and a physical exhibit on display through July 14 in the Jerry and Bruce Chappell Family Gallery in Perkins. Duke Digital Collections include Silent Vigil (1968) and Allen Building Takeover (1969) Audio Recordings. In addition to the  Allen Building Takeover recordings, Duke has digitized the oral history collection Behind the Veil: Documenting African-American Life in the Jim Crow South. Members of the Duke community now also have access to a database of oral history interviews of African Americans: The HistoryMakers Digital Archive.

NC Central University has two remaining events in their Black History Month Activities: a lecture from The Universal Ethiopian Students’ Association, 1927-1948: Mobilizing Diaspora by Dr. Takeia Anthony and the musical drama A Need Fulfilled, profiling the lives of black nurses in World War II.

For more exciting reads, check out our New and Noteworthy and Current Literature collections.


Unseen: Unpublished Black History From The New York Times Photo Archives by Darcy Eveleigh, Dana Canedy, Damien Cave, and Rachel L. Swarns.

Hundreds of stunning images from black history have long been buried in the New York Times archives. Unseen dives deep into the Times photo archives – known as the Morgue – to showcase this extraordinary collection of photographs and the stories behind them.

It all started with Times photo editor Darcy Eveleigh discovering dozens of these photographs. She and three colleagues – Dana Canedy, Damien Cave and Rachel L. Swarns – began exploring the history behind them, subsequently chronicling them in a series entitled “Unpublished Black History” that ran in print and online editions of the Times in February 2016. It garnered 1.7 million views on the Times website and thousands of comments from readers. This book includes those photographs and many more, among them: a 27-year-old Jesse Jackson leading an anti-discrimination rally in Chicago, Rosa Parks arriving at a Montgomery Courthouse in Alabama, a candid behind-the-scenes shot of Aretha Franklin backstage at the Apollo Theater, Ralph Ellison on the streets of his Manhattan neighborhood, the firebombed home of Malcolm X, Myrlie Evans and her children at the funeral of her slain husband , Medgar, and a wheelchair-bound Roy Campanella at the razing of Ebbets Field.

Were the photos – or the people in them – not deemed newsworthy enough? Did the images not arrive in time for publication? Were they pushed aside by words at an institution long known as the Gray Lady? Eveleigh, Canedy, Cave, and Swarns explore all these questions and more in this one-of-a-kind book.

My favorite photograph from this book is at the beginning of the section “Arthur Mitchell, Dancing Through Barriers” on page 96. Unfortunately, this image does not appear in the online photograph series.


Talking Back: Voices of Color edited and with an introduction by Nellie Wong.

Talking Back: Voices of Color is a dynamic anthology featuring voices of youth, political prisoners, immigrants, and history-makers. Essays by a multi-racial, intergenerational mix of 25 Black, Latinx, Native American, and LGBTQ community organizers. Topics include quality education and environmental justice, indigenous land rights and international solidarity, film and book reviews, hidden histories of women of color, and tales of endurance and survival.

The introduction by Nellie Wong, a celebrated and widely published poet, explores the meaning of talking back as a step in gaining self-esteem and as a collective act. She writes: “To whom do we talk back? To those who will silence us. Those who incarcerate us in prison or in the home. Those who deny us our rights to cross borders to seek refuge from violence and safety for our children. Those who brutalize us because of our race, gender or sexuality… These voices of color matter. They need to be heard. Everywhere.”

This vibrant anthology astonished me at every turn. Many of the events referenced are history that I was never taught, stories that never penetrated the mainstream media, and news that never struck me as important on a visceral level amid the flood of a 24/7 news cycle and the filter effect of social media. Talking Back: Voices of Color opened my eyes to lived realities. I highly recommend this book, but reading it requires open-mindedness and a willingness to listen rather than reflexively judge based on the organizers’ politics.


Showtime at the Apollo: The Epic Tale of Harlem’s Legendary Theater by Ted Fox, illustrated by James Otis Smith.

Writer Ted Fox and artist James Otis Smith bring to life Harlem’s legendary theater in this graphic novel adaptation of Fox’s definitive, critically acclaimed history of the Apollo.

Since its inception as an African-American theater in 1934, the Apollo, and the thousands of entertainers who performed there, have led the way in the presentation of swing, bebop, rhythm and blues, jazz, gospel, soul, funk and hip-hop – along with the latest in dance and comedy. The Apollo has nurtured and featured thousands of artists, many of whom have become legends. The beauty they have given the world – their art – transcends the hatred, ignorance, and intolerance that often made their lives difficult. Today, the Apollo enjoys an almost mythical status. With its breathtaking art, this graphic novel adaptation of Showtime at the Apollo brings to life the theater’s legendary significance in music history, African American history, and the culture of New York City.

Multiversity Comics interviewed Ted Fox and James Otis Smith at New York Comic Con 2018. In addition to the new graphic novel, we have the 1983 book it was adapted from.


Afro-Descendants, Identity, and the Struggle for Development in the Americas edited by Bernd Reiter and Kimberly Eison Simmons.

Indigenous people and African descendants in Latin America and the Caribbean have long been affected by a social hierarchy established by elites, through which some groups were racialized and others were normalized. Far from being “racial paradises” populated by an amalgamated “cosmic race” of mulattos and mestizos, Latin America and the Caribbean have long been sites of shifting exploitative strategies and ideologies, ranging from scientific racism and eugenics to the more sophisticated official denial of racism and ethnic difference. This book, among the first to focus on African descendants in the region, brings together diverse reflections from scholars, activists, and funding agency representatives working to end racism and promote human rights in the Americas. By focusing on the ways racism inhibits agency among African descendants and the ways African-descendant groups position themselves in order to overcome obstacles, this interdisciplinary book provides a multi-faceted analysis of one of the gravest contemporary problems in the Americas.

Bernd Reiter has also written The Dialectics of Citizenship: Exploring Privilege, Exclusion, and Racialization and The Crisis of Liberal Democracy and the Path Ahead. Kimberly Eison Simmons contributed to Black Feminist Anthropology: Theory, Politics, Praxis, and Poetics and wrote Reconstructing Racial Identity and the African Past in the Dominican Republic.


Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly.

Newbery Medalist Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello, Universe is a funny and poignant neighborhood story about unexpected friendships.

In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his crazy-about-sports family. Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and she loves everything about nature. Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic, whose little sister, Gen, is always following her around. And Chet Bullens wishes the weird kids would just stop being so different so he can concentrate on basketball.

They aren’t friends, at least not until Chet pulls a prank that traps Virgil and his pet guinea pig at the bottom of a well. This disaster leads Kaori, Gen, and Valencia on an epic quest to find missing Virgil. Through luck, smarts, bravery, and a little help from the universe, a rescue is performed, a bully is put in his place, and friendship blooms.

The acclaimed and award-winning author of Blackbird Fly and The Land of Forgotten Girls writes with an authentic, humorous, and irresistible tween voice that will appeal to fans of Thanhha Lai and Rita Williams-Garcia.

I saw this book while browsing the New and Noteworthy collection. It looked adorable and positive, and did not disappoint. Hello Universe is so cute and wholesome that I was tearing up at the end because everything turns out well and friendship is amazing.

 


What to Read this Month: January 2019

Welcome back! The best way to celebrate the start of 2019 is with some new books. Check out our New and Noteworthy and Current Literature collections for some good titles.


“All the Real Indians Died Off”: and 20 Other Myths About Native Americans by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker unpacks the twenty-one most common myths and misconceptions about Native Americans. In this enlightening book, scholars and activists Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker tackle a wide range of myths about Native American culture and history that have misinformed generations. Tracing how these ideas evolved, and drawing from history, the authors disrupt long-held and enduring myths such as-“Columbus Discovered America,” “Thanksgiving Proves the Indians Welcomed Pilgrims,” “Indians Were Savage and Warlike,” “Europeans Brought Civilization to Backward Indians,” “The United States Did Not Have a Policy of Genocide,” “Sports Mascots Honor Native Americans,” “Most Indians Are on Government Welfare,” “Indian Casinos Make Them All Rich,” and “Indians Are Naturally Predisposed to Alcohol.” Each chapter deftly shows how these myths are rooted in the fears and prejudice of European settlers and in the larger political agendas of a settler state aimed at acquiring Indigenous land and tied to narratives of erasure and disappearance. Accessibly written and revelatory, All the Real Indians Died Off challenges readers to rethink what they have been taught about Native Americans and history.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz also wrote An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. Dina Gilio-Whitaker is a policy director and senior researcher at the Center for World Indigenous Studies.

According to Shandiin Herrera, who wrote a moving piece on the Native American experience at Duke in the Chronicle, “I think that this book selection is very important because there are too many stereotypes that continue to be perpetuated, especially in academia. These myths continue to harm Indigenous students, tribal policies, and Native Nations across the country. There is also a substantial amount of power in gaining a new understanding of history and the construction of our society.”


A Safe Girl to Love by Casey Plett contains eleven unique short stories that stretch from a rural Canadian Mennonite town to a hipster gay bar in Brooklyn, featuring young trans women stumbling through loss, sex, harassment, and love. These stories, shiny with whiskey and prairie sunsets, rattling subways and neglected cats, show growing up as a trans girl can be charming, funny, frustrating, or sad, but never will it be predictable.

In addition to Perkins, you can find A Safe Girl to Love as a free PDF on the author’s website Progress Never Stops For Nostalgic Transsexuals.


The Kukotsky Enigma: A Novel by Ludmila Ulitskaya, translated from the Russian by Diane Nemec Ignashev. The central character in Ludmila Ulitskaya’s celebrated novel The Kukotsky Enigma is a gynecologist contending with Stalin’s prohibition of abortions in 1936. But, in the tradition of Russia’s great family novels, the story encompasses the history of two families and unfolds in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and the ruins of ancient civilizations on the Black Sea. Their lives raise profound questions about family heritage and genetics, nurture and nature, and life and death. In his struggle to maintain his professional integrity and to keep his work from dividing his family, Kukotsky confronts the moral complexity of reproductive science. Winner of the 2001 Russian Booker Prize and the basis for a blockbuster television miniseries, The Kukotsky Enigma is an engrossing, searching novel by one of contemporary literature’s most brilliant writers.

If you’re interested, we also have the original Russian novel.


You Have the Right to Remain Fat by Virgie Tovar. Growing up as a fat girl, Virgie Tovar believed that her body was something to be fixed. But after two decades of dieting and constant guilt, she was over it–and gave herself the freedom to trust her own body again. Ever since, she’s been helping others to do the same. Tovar is hungry for a world where bodies are valued equally, food is free from moral judgment, and you can jiggle through life with respect. In concise and candid language, she delves into unlearning fatphobia, dismantling sexist notions of fashion, and how to reject diet culture’s greatest lie: that fat people need to wait before beginning their best lives.

Check out her TEDx Talk and website.


Odd Girl Out: My Extraordinary Autistic Life by Laura James. From childhood, Laura James knew she was different. She struggled to cope in a world that often made no sense to her, as though her brain had its own operating system. It wasn’t until she reached her forties that she found out why: suddenly and surprisingly, she was diagnosed with autism.

With a touching and searing honesty, Laura challenges everything we think we know about what it means to be autistic. Married with four children and a successful journalist, Laura examines the ways in which autism has shaped her career, her approach to motherhood, and her closest relationships. Laura’s upbeat, witty writing offers new insight into the day-to-day struggles of living with autism, as her extreme attention to sensory detail–a common aspect of her autism–is fascinating to observe through her eyes.

As Laura grapples with defining her own identity, she also looks at the unique benefits neurodiversity can bring. Lyrical and lush, Odd Girl Out shows how being different doesn’t mean being less, and proves that it is never too late for any of us to find our rightful place in the world.

Amelia Hill of the Guardian interviewed Laura James about being a mother with autism.